“I took quite a circuitous route to my current role. Everyone at Beckford’s has had a varied prior history which has given us all unique strengths to draw on in our current roles. Mine started when I left school and joined the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineering Artificer. I saw quite a bit of the world, including the Caribbean, Mediterranean and not quite so glamorous North Sea! I served on Aircraft Carrier H.M.S. Hermes and the Frigate H.M.S. Scylla. In 1979 whilst serving on H.M.S. Scylla, I was involved in scattering the ashes of Nicholas Monserrat (author of The Cruel Sea and many other famous works). I only recently found out that he had spent some of his life living in Guernsey.
After spending 10 years in the Royal Navy, I came back to Guernsey and started a car repair business at The Bridge, St Sampsons. After a break as a house husband, I joined the ambulance service as a maintenance engineer, including a stint as Chief Engineer on the Flying Christine. During my time at the Ambulance service a group of us volunteered to fund raise and take two ex‐ambulance vehicles and other equipment to a hospital in The Gambia, 3000 miles away across the Sahara Desert
Just over four years ago I became a pall bearer, then hearse driver Beckford’s. It’s a very sociable role which brings you in to contact with a lot of different people. As pall bearers, we make sure the grave is prepared for the burial service and dress the grave with man-made grass, keeping it tidy. The coffin is lowered by four pall bearers. Families are often not aware of who has attended the funeral so we take their names together with the sentiments written on wreaths which is later printed in the local paper.
At the graveside during a religious service earth is sometimes scattered over the coffin once the coffin has been lowered as a symbol from earth we came and to earth we return.
I think you need to be a good time‐keeper and of smart appearance, traits I learnt in the Royal Navy, along with respect. You’ve also got to be fit because of the lifting nature of the job and generally our team of pall‐bearers are around the same height which helps when you are carrying a coffin. And it goes without saying you have to have compassion. We’re all moved in different ways, and it is sometimes difficult to keep emotions at arm's length whilst families grieve.
And as a hearse driver I think it’s a real privilege to drive someone on their final journey. Some pedestrians still stop and bow when they see a hearse passing, the older generation removing their hats as a mark of respect. Equally, some impatient drivers will overtake you.
I take pride in my hearse driving, but also enjoy my motor racing, taking part in various island races throughout the year, including the Val de Terres , Imperial, Reservoir, Vale Castle and Alderney ‐ I made my own car at night school. Some of my other interests are bird watching and gardening.
I’d like my own funeral to be a simple affair, with people wearing the clothes they choose to. I do like a good classical piece of music at a funeral and at mine I’d like Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. It’s always played at the Cenotaph at the National Service of Remembrance in November each year and is fitting for someone like myself from a Services background. I’m not ready to go yet though.